Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Irma when Hurricane Maria hit on September 20. Bible Society of Puerto Rico General Secretary Heriberto Martinez-Rivera sent this update on Friday 22 September:
"Puerto Rico has been totally chopped up...100% of the island is without electricity. Only now are we able to get drinking water. Regrettably, government authorities have confirmed six deaths. Some parts of the island are totally without communication... In the village of Toa Baja, heavy rains have led to a dramatic increase in refugees in the last hours. To this was added a devastating storm surge in the town of Isabela (northwest), flattening all businesses near the beach area.
All those who have visited our island before and enjoyed our emblematic tourist areas...and coastal areas wouldn't recognise it now. The reality is another Puerto Rico."
Mr Martinez-Rivera says he is grateful for all the messages of support he has received from Bible Societies. His team is making plans to provide Scriptures for distribution to people in shelters and affected communities, in partnership with churches across the island. "Please pray for the Bible Society of Puerto Rico so that we can continue carrying the Word of God to all the people in this anguished hour of pain and uncertainty."
This week staff members of the Biblical Commission of Cuba (the Bible Society team) have been visiting some of the provinces worst hit by Hurricane Irma, which rampaged through the country causing destruction on a massive scale. By the time Irma had finished with Cuba, 10 people had died, more than one million had been evacuated and thousands had lost their homes and livelihoods. The infrastructure of this already struggling country is badly damaged and its economy, heavily reliant on tourism, has been dealt a severe blow. The true impact of the disaster will not be fully understood for some time.
"We are assessing the damage and delivering humanitarian aid and biblical materials," notes General Secretary Alain Montano. Together with representatives from the Cuban Council of Churches (CIC), the Biblical Commission is seeing first hand the needs on the ground in order to put together a plan to help.
Once again, churches have already played a key role in helping people affected by this latest natural disaster, evacuating and sheltering thousands and distributing drinking water. Although churches have been active in responding to previous disasters, their role this time was mentioned on national television for the first time ever.
Before Hurricane Irma blew into Cuba, it had already wreaked terrible damage in the East Caribbean, particularly on the islands of Barbuda, Tortola, St Tomas, St Croix and St John.
The Bible Society of the East Caribbean has been working with churches and other partners to understand the scale of the needs, which are staggering. The situation is so severe on some of the islands - including Barbuda, where 90% of the infrastructure has been destroyed - that residents are being evacuated to other islands or countries.
Bible Society General Secretary Owen Williams says that while there is an urgent need for humanitarian aid... communities are also in need of hope and a sense of resilience.
"The Word of God will play a key role in the rebuilding process that is starting now," he noted.
The distribution of Scriptures to affected communities is already under way as the Bible Society works with a network of partners, including the Coast Guard and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
"In the middle of tragedy significant opportunities are opening to serve the Caribbean nations, bringing them relief and sharing a message of hope with them," says Marco Martinez, the Global Mission Team Facilitator who works with the nations of the Caribbean.
Please pray for the Biblical Commission of Cuba and the Bible Society in the East Caribbean as they bring help and hope to traumatised hurricane survivors.